Sir William Cubitt

Sir William Cubitt and the Oxford Canal

Sir William Cubitt was a leading civil engineer of his day, who made an important contribution to the development of civil engineering.

This includes work on the Oxford Canal, where he was employed to straighten the northern section to increase the speed with which coal barges could join the Grand Union Canal.

Some of Cubitt’s structures on the northern Oxford Canal have survived largely intact and are now Grade II-listed. These include the Newbold Tunnel, near Rugby; and three bridges, across the Fennis Field Arm, at Braunston Junction and at the Cosford Aqueduct.

Of particular note is the Newbold Tunnel near Rugby. This is a single semi-circular arch with double tow-paths and cast-iron handrails and was probably the first tunnel, or one of the first, designed and constructed by William Cubitt.

Further along the canal at Harborough Magna one of Cubitt’s bridges survives. Constructed in 1831-34 across the Fennis Field Arm, it is a single span bridge made of prefabricated cast-iron plates with an openwork parapet, also of cast-iron. In spite of the minor importance and functional nature of this bridge, attention was still given to design and ornamentation. His other surviving bridges at Braunston Junction and the Cosford Aqueduct show a similar attention to aesthetics.

Sir William Cubitt was also linked with Rochester Bridge, being appointed Bridge Engineer on 23rd May 1839. He designed the cast-iron replacement to the medieval bridge, which was opened in 1856. The piers of Cubitt’s bridge still carry Rochester’s Old Bridge to this day. During his time with the Trust, Cubitt was President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1850-51).